An extraordinary moment is about to unfold in an otherwise ordinary place.
It’s a warm Autumn morning in Boston, and we’re sitting inside a cafe that looks out onto a small, city park. It has silver chairs and tables bolted to the grass and a tall black gate around the children’s play area. Leaning against that gate is a woman with short ash-blonde hair, glasses and knee-length cream shorts on. She’s our mum. We keep pulling faces at her because we can tell she’s nervous. That’s what the onlooker would see: twin girls in their late twenties poking their tongue out at a woman across the road, who appears to be waiting for someone.
The thought crosses all of our minds. What if he doesn’t come? We’ve travelled from Sydney – 16,000 kilometres, 23 hours in the air – for this moment. Mum keeps swallowing. We take a photo of her standing there, hands clasped behind her back, feet pointed outwards, glancing around the corner.
A few times we think we see him, but it turns out to be the wrong man – another person with their own story, their own questions, their own quiet uncertainties.
“That’s him,” one of us says.
We expected him to be wearing a hat, but realise that’s only because he’s wearing one in his Facebook photo. He’s wearing a blue checked shirt, clearly ironed, and jeans. He has Mum’s nose. The height of our uncles. The hairline of our brothers.
His name is Andrew. And Mum is seeing him for the first time since she gave birth to him exactly 37 years, two months, and 21 hours ago.
When Mum – Anne – was 22, she faded from the lives of most of the people who knew her. She didn’t play on her basketball team or go to parties. She didn’t go to work. She took a semester off studying.
As the months got cooler, a bump grew under Anne’s jumpers that could no longer be hidden. The last thing she did before disappearing for a while was attend a friend’s wedding. It took almost 37 years for that friend to admit that she knew Anne was pregnant. It was obvious. She just didn’t know how to bring it up.
Mia Freedman spoke to Anne Stephens, our mum, on a special Mother’s Day episode of No Filter. You can listen to the episode right here. Post continues below.
Anne fell pregnant to her boyfriend at the time. She says now that their relationship was dysfunctional. They weren’t right for each other, and they probably both knew it. They hadn’t planned to have a baby. She hadn’t studied like she wanted to, she was working part-time taking bets at the races and didn’t have the means to care for a baby. For the first few months, she says she was in denial. She ignored the changes happening to her body and put off making any kind of decision, which was probably a decision in and of itself. The baby in her belly continued to grow. She would have this baby. But she knew she wasn’t yet the mother she wanted to be. The baby she birthed would be adopted, to be brought up by a mother and a father, in a stable home, with everything he or she could ever need.